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Stephen Tobolowsky (#110 of 12)

Computer Nerds As Superheroes Sneakers at 25

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Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Universal Pictures

Computer Nerds As Superheroes: Sneakers at 25

Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers is a comic-book movie where the superpowers employed are mental, not physical. Its plot and structure will be familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in the Marvel or DC Universes: A group of uniquely skilled folks from different backgrounds join forces to combat a more powerful, ominous enemy. There’s an overlong yet enjoyable climactic battle where each hero gets a moment to shine; the bad guys aren’t so much defeated as they’re temporarily contained; and the film’s ending hints that the heroes will continue to fight for their brand of justice. Sneakers even has Robert Redford, whom today’s youngsters will recognize from his work in the best of the Marvel movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 10, “Server Error”

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “Server Error”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “Server Error”

“Server Error,” the season-four finale of Silicon Valley, checks in with almost all the main characters in Pied Piper’s orbit while setting the stage for two season-five showdowns: the battle between Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and Gavin (Matt Ross) for domination of the Internet and the fight for Richard’s soul. Richard lurches in the general direction of ends-justify-the-means mogul-dom with exquisite clumsiness, bouncing back and forth between maniacal determination and dejected self-loathing as his team keeps pulling him back from the brink—Jared (Zach Woods) appealing to his morals while Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) ride herd on his ego. Meanwhile, Gavin roars back into top predator mode with sociopathic ease, polishing off the amuse-bouche of Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky) in one ravenous bite before making a beeline for Richard.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 9, “Hooli-Con”

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 9, “Hooli-Con”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 9, “Hooli-Con”

The Pied Piper team’s slow-boiling crisis of faith in Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) leadership, which has been coming to a head throughout Silicon Valley’s fourth season, heats up several degrees in tonight’s episode, “Hooli-Con.” The push-pull between their respect for his brilliance as a coder and their doubts about his talent as a CEO puts the rest of the team in an awkward, can’t-live-with-him, can’t-live-without-him position.

After leaving Richard in the season premiere, “Success Failure,” his team members returned as soon as he came up with another potentially brilliant idea—well, all but Bachman (T.J. Miller), who was finally forced to come to terms with the fact that he has no role to play except as host, though he would never admit it. Even after their reunion, the others’ skepticism about their fearful leader has never been far from the surface. In various episodes this season they’ve called him crazy, said he was cursed, and griped, openly and often, about his uncanny knack for letting success slip through his fingers every time it’s within his reach. But not until “Hooli-Con” does even Jared (Zach Woods) start to doubt Richard’s ability to lead a successful launch.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 8, “The Keenan Vortex”

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “The Keenan Vortex”

John P. Johnson/HBO

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “The Keenan Vortex”

Eager to pass on his hard-won wisdom, whether anyone wants it or not, Richard (Thomas Middleditch) tells Keenan Feldspar (Haley Joel Osment) on tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley to enjoy his success while it lasts because “this can be a tough business.” Keenan, who’s such a good bullshit artist that he wins Richard over by admitting that, yes, he really is a bullshit artist, swats away Richard’s warning, and no wonder: The wheels of Silicon Valley are greased for operators like him. But in the trip-wired world of smart nerds like Richard and the rest of the Pied Piper crew, there’s rarely time to savor a victory before it blows up and knocks them back on their asses.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 3, "Intellectual Property"

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Intellectual Property”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Intellectual Property”

Tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley takes a satiric look at some of the ways that the all-important yet elusive concept of intellectual property plays out in the Valley, starting with Jian-Yang (Jimmy O. Yang) and Bachman’s (T.J. Miller) pitch to the Coleman Blair venture capitalists. Jian-Yang’s modest recipe-app idea is quickly passed over and replaced by a purely theoretical but more exciting one: SeeFood, the kind of potentially transformative app every coder dreams of inventing. It’s a hook so sharp and shiny that the VCs throw $200,000 in seed money at it and Monica (Amanda Crew), aware there’s no substance behind the flash, uses it to try to lure in her douche-bro nemesis, Ed Chen (Tim Chiou), in hopes of triggering a failure big enough to take him down—or at least take him down a couple of notches.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 2, "Terms of Service"

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Terms of Service”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Terms of Service”

In tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley, Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) takes about a minute to transition from underdog to overlord as PiperChat’s new CEO, getting high on his own hot air. But it only takes him another minute to come back to earth, in a crash landing so humiliating and terrifying it even satisfies the perpetually disgruntled Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), whose rivalry with Dinesh is so deep he’d rather see Dinesh fail than see his own company succeed.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 1, "Success Failure"

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Success Failure”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Success Failure”

Richard (Thomas Middleditch) bumbles his way to an unlikely victory at the start of the season premiere of Silicon Valley, posing as an Uber driver in the latest chapter of Pied Piper’s comically inept struggle to survive. The nerdily awkward pitch Richard initiates to the venture capitalist in his back seat, video-conferencing with the rest of the Pied Piper team to show off the unexpectedly popular platform they’ve created more or less by accident, doubles as a reunion for the show’s viewers, bringing the main characters together in all their dysfunctional glory.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, "Out of Time"

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Out of Time”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 7, “Out of Time”

After weeks of slow buildup, story padding and other barely disguised stall tactics, Heroes finally kicked into gear on Monday with its seventh episode of the season, “Out of Time”. Written by Aron Eli Coleite and directed by Daniel Attias, we finally get to see more than two main characters interacting together, as well as some decent twists and a good deal of advancement in the season’s main arcs. The same flaws are still there—stilted dialogue, those ever-present wooden characters and a recycled time-travel plot—but because the pace is much improved, the flaws become so much less important. It doesn’t forgive that it took us six weeks to get here, but “Out of Time” certainly proves that the faster Heroes moves, the better it seems.

Heroes Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, "The Line"

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<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “The Line”
<em>Heroes</em> Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “The Line”

Heroes is now a quarter of the way into its second season, but its sixth episode “The Line” is evident of the lack of progress the show has made since returning in September. The vast (and ever-expanding) ensemble remains scattered to the winds, their various plots lumbering sluggishly towards recycled conclusions. The cliffhanger at the end of “The Line” finally hints at a possible unifying save-the-world arc for the show to rally around—just the thing Heroes needs to regain its zeitgeist credibility. The problem is, the cliffhanger is a lame rip-off of the show’s own material, which just serves to hit home how this season has been a rather pale imitation of the first.

After all, the first season at least had the element of surprise. There were plenty of shocks, most of them character-related, for the writers to reveal. Nathan can fly! Peter absorbs powers! Sylar steals powers! And so on. By now, that’s obviously no longer an option, so we’re treated to far more ordinary plot developments, like Peter’s amnesia, Claire’s suspicious boyfriend, Parkman’s father being evil. Even worse, some of the new characters demonstrate powers we’ve already seen before—Kensei can regenerate like Claire, West can fly like Nathan, and Monica’s ’muscle memory’ bears similarity to the quick learning skills of last year’s recurring character Charlie (Jayma Mays). I’m not ready to give up on Heroes, partly because I think it’s eventually going to pick up speed out of sheer necessity. Nonetheless “The Line” (written by Adam Armus and Kay Foster and directed by Jeannot Szwarc) is another meandering, at times frustratingly dull hour, redeemed only by a similar theme running through all of this week’s stories.

John from Cincinnati Recap Season 1, Episode 4, “His Visit: Day Three”

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John from Cincinnati Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “His Visit: Day Three”
John from Cincinnati Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “His Visit: Day Three”

If we were to distill John from Cincinnati to a single image, to a single visual trope, it would be the one that kicked off the series’ fourth episode, “His Visit, Day Three.” John Monad (Austin Nichols) stands before the skeletal circular structure that first figured in a brief aside during episode two. Now as then, he looks at the structure knowingly, but the really telling details come from the camerawork. When John is in close-up, the distance between him and the structure is increased, rendered in Citizen Kane-like deep focus; when John is in long shot, the distance between the two objects is suddenly collapsed, so that the structure effectively dwarfs its observer.